What is stealing
A person commits a stealing offence if they fraudulently take anything capable of being stolen, or fraudulently converts to the person’s own use or to the use of any other person anything capable of being stolen.
Although the definition might make stealing sound like a straightforward offence, it is in fact incredibly complex and there are a number of important issues that need to be examined whenever a person faces a stealing charge. For example:
Do the police know who owner the thing that was allegedly stolen? A person cannot be convicted of a stealing offence if the property did not belong to anyone in the first place.
Can the police prove that the accused person had an intention to permanently deprive the owner of the property? They must be able to prove that the accused person did not simply borrow the item with every intention of returning it.
Did the accused person steal the property or did they simply find it? A person cannot be convicted of a stealing offence if they find something and they do not know who the owner is and also that they believe, on reasonable grounds, that the owner cannot be discovered.
There is also a legal argument known as the “doctrine of recent possession”. If you are found in possession of property that has only recently been stolen, the police will allege that you either stole it yourself or that you received it knowing that it was stolen. They will make this argument on the basis that you came into possession of the property so soon after it was stolen and therefore not enough time would have passed for you to then obtain it lawfully (for example, by buying it from a Cash Converters without knowing that it was originally stolen).
As you can see, stealing offences are not as straightforward as they may seem and it is therefore extremely important that you seek expert advice from an experience criminal lawyer.
What is the Penalty
If a person is convicted of a simple stealing offence, they are liable to imprisonment for 5 years. However the penalty will be increased if there is an aggravating factor or a special case. For example, a person is liable to imprisonment for 14 years if the thing stolen is a Last Will and Testament. Similarly a person is liable to imprisonment for 10 years if the offence is committed during a natural disaster.
In many cases, a conviction may be recorded which can impact a person’s future life.
How we can help you
There are numerous defences available if you choose to plead not guilty to a stealing offence, and we can expertly guide you through all of these. If however you choose to plead guilty, we know how to ensure that you receive the most lenient penalty that is reasonable.